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Managing Concentration Issues

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 23 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Concentration Insomnia Sleep Problems

If you suffer from ongoing tiredness during the day because of your insomnia, you may find it hard to apply yourself to everyday tasks. At home, at work, and when you're out and about, difficulty concentrating can make trivial things take ten times longer. It can make it difficult to do some things - like working with numbers - at all. Short of curing your sleeplessness, what can you do to address your concentration problems?

Meditation and Concentration

If you are suffering from serious problems with concentrating as a result of your insomnia, the recommended first step is to try and solve the problem with meditation.

Meditation does not require a particular spiritual mindset and it isn't necessary to chant anything. It's simply about clearing your mind so that you can free yourself from distractions and concentrate on what's important.

Most people find it easier to meditate if they have something simple to concentrate on. This could be visual, like shiny coin, or it could be a repetitive rhythm. The trick is to focus on this and take deep, slow breaths. Aim to relax and push all your concerns aside until you feel completely calm. You can then return to the task at hand.

Meditation doesn't work for everybody, but as it has no negative side effects, it's well worth a try. It's a tool you can use strategically throughout your day whenever you need to re-focus.

Drugs and Concentration

The most common drug people in Britain turn to when they need a concentration boost is caffeine, in the form of tea or coffee. Caffeine can be great for short term concentration problems, as it will make you feel more energetic, but the trouble is that it can also make you restless and you'll find your concentration quickly deteriorates after the first twenty minutes.

If you become dependent on taking more and more caffeine, your body will build up tolerance to its energy-boosting effects, so you'll get less and less help whilst still suffering from the nasty side effects. The same problem applies to taurine, found in energy drinks like Red Bull.

Some people struggling with ongoing concentration problems caused by insomnia find that the best solution is anti-anxiety medication. This is designed to help you relax and focus on one thing at a time, without the constant sense of distraction that fatigue can cause. It can, however, have unpleasant side effects for some people. Talk to your GP if you think it might be appropriate for you.

There is now a developing class of drugs designed specifically to improve cognitive function - how clearly you can think - in people with sleep problems. Of these, probably the most highly acclaimed is modafinil, which your doctor may be willing to prescribe for you - however, long term studies on possible side effects are yet to be completed.

Diet and Concentration

Concentration difficulties in insomniacs are often caused by associated problems with nutrition. If you're not sleeping properly, your body won't be efficient at getting rid of fatigue toxins, and it may need extra help to do so.

One of the best quick fixes for concentration problems is fruit juice, as it delivers fruit sugars which are easily broken down and much better for you than sucrose. Eating an apple is also a great brain-booster.

Over the longer term, it's important to make sure you're getting enough of certain key nutrients. These include Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, olive oil and walnuts); vitamin B1 (thiamin, found mostly in bread and cereals); vitamin E and phenols (found in leafy green vegetables) and beta-carotene (in carrots and spinach). Young women and men with inherited anaemia may also need extra iron, though iron deficiency is very rare in most men and in post-menopausal women.

Diet-related concentration issues can also occur due to poor eating patterns. If you depend a lot on quick-fix sugar boosts, your blood sugar levels will go up and down throughout the day. Try to get a good intake of slow-release carbohydrates, as found in bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. This can also help with your sleep rhythms.

Working around Concentration Problems

If you've tried all these things and your problems remain, it's time to look for ways of working around them. The first thing to do is to plan your time carefully - including breaks to help you manage fatigue - and write everything down so that it's easy to manage your schedule. Tick tasks off as you complete them so you don't lose track.

Once you have your schedule well organised, you may find concentration easier if you undertake two or more tasks at once and keep switching between them when you start to phase out. Brains focus more easily on things that seem new.

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